“Where did you get all that money from?” says Cabbage in an exasperated tone and look. It’s a question I’ve gotten many times over and over. How do you drop everything you own and travel for months at a time? Well, this isn’t my first time traveling for months at a time and so I’ve given this some thought…
How do I do it?
Well there is no perfect formula. I first started traveling the summer of 2009 after picking up a book called Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. Instead of focusing on the nitty-gritty details of traveling, he dove into the mindset that one must develop to turn long term travel into a way of life. This book inspired me to start my travels and after landing a job in Yellowstone National Park, as a server in a restaurant, I was off. That was 6 years ago now and I’ve lived the all over the west side of the States, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua working various jobs and living out of all types of vehicles and homes. Oh man, what an adventure it has been.
What did I learn?
What I learned from the book and many years of travel is simple in theory but challenging in application. One must place new experiences over comfort, conveniences, and vices. Sometimes you sleep in your vehicle when it’s zero degrees outside for a month and get 60 days on the ski hill learning and mastering snowboarding. And sometimes you have a nice comfy dorm room that you can literally pull back the curtains and watch two bull elk fight over claim to a whole herd of ladies. Both times I chose experience and both times my life was enriched.
And no I'm not wealthy.
Far from wealthy actually. In fact, if you were to look at my taxes, you would be quite surprised with how little money I make. But before I talk numbers, let’s talk about “travasites” or travel parasites. And not the kind you get from drinking the water or not washing your hands, those deserve a post of their own. I’m talking about vices. All those little things you do every day, once a week, and even once a month, that if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t really need. I’ll tackle the 3 big ones first. Alcohol, coffee, and eating out. Now let me say first that I have been guilty of participating in these far more often than I’d like to admit, but over the years of making this a way of life I have learned to slowly but surely cut back.
And I'm talking about considerably cutting back.
Let’s do some comparisons. One nice meal in the states, or three cups of coffee from your favorite cafe, or two drinks at the bar currently equals one day of volunteering on a farm on a tropical island surrounded by beautiful flora, fauna, and people. That’s three meals, a place to lay your head, and a chance to learn something new and rewarding that can be used in the future. So let’s do some actual math. Say you eat out twice, go to a coffee shop three times, and go out drinking once in a week. Cutting these back could EASILY save me about $75 dollars a week which equals to nearly $4000 a year! That is just three vices I’ve changed and I could easily travel for a few months in many places in the world.
``A few months!`` you might say.
You better believe it and probably even longer. Plus there are other benefits to cutting back on these as well. When I cook at home or at a friend’s house, I get a certain satisfaction from preparing my own healthy whole food and at the same time participate in shared experience with friends all while investing in future chances to do it again. When I chose to not go out and drink for the week, or even just not drink while at the bar, I don’t rob myself of my next day and get a chance to safely get my friends home. And while I don’t have a latte machine at the house, drinking black coffee or none at all makes me appreciate that wonderful cup when I do and cuts back on my need to have that every day of traveling, which can save a lot of money and time.
``But isn't eating out, coffee, and partying a big part of travel?``
Well it depends on your definition of travel. You see, vacation and travel can be two different things. As a way of life, travel isn’t just vacation, it is life. It has similarities to vacationing and sometimes looks very similar, especially if your travasites control your day to day routines. You see eating out, coffee, and partying are just about the same no matter where you go and are side affects of travel because people do them everywhere. You don’t need to seek these things out, they will come to you, trust me. And because you have cut back considerably on these money suckers you will appreciate them much more while traveling. I don’t travel to quench my vices, there are richer experiences available to you if you are open to them and this is why I travel.
Experience Experience Experience!
Experiencing new culture takes a level of acceptance that is hard to do if your focused on your “travasites” or vices. The reason so many people miss out on this is because it is an abstract concept. It requires living in the now by accepting the present moment for what it is, no matter what is happening, and not comparing past experiences to it or having an expectation of what your future experiences will be. This is the true key to joyful experiential travel and well, for that matter, life. Now I am no guru and not perfect at this, so I would recommend turning to some masters of these teachings such as Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra. One book in particular shined the light on what is important like no other I’ve ever read. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle changed my life and gave me the tools to live in the now. It gave me the power to bring myself out of the hole that is depression and has helped me maintain joy in my life since. Even if you don’t suffer from depression, pick up this book and read it. I promise, you will not be disappointed. Here is an excerpt from that book.